The fine art of the tailgate

The spread

SEC schools – heck, Southern colleges in general – are known for their tailgating prowess. We take what can be a haphazard practice (potato chips, dip and a keg) and mold it into fine art.

A good tailgate is no picnic. A proper tailgate mustbe planned and executed with precision, from the food selection, serving dishes and participant list right down to arrival time.

Tailgating is an essential part of the game-day process. First, let’s talk timing. I’ve said it before: The tailgate comes before the game because it keeps a loss from spoiling the party. Get your good times in before the kickoff: That way, if the final score doesn’t go your way, you can take comfort in the fact that at least your pre-game activities were a rockin’ good time.

For readers lucky enough to still be in college, beware of accepting dates to afternoon games (first dates, especially). Daytime game dates are long affairs. There’s the tailgate, the game itself and, often, the post-game plans. It’s best to come up with an escape strategy that can be executed if your date turns out to be a loser.  “I just got a call from my parents and they’ve unexpectedly arrived to take me to dinner” is a proven winner.

Now, let’s talk tailgating specifics. My longtime partner in crime – my college roommate, Jill, who has been my best friend for more years than I’ll mention here – is a University of South Carolina season-ticket holder. She and her husband, Clif, have this tailgating thing down pat, so let’s use their example.

  • First, arrival time. Clif is serious about getting a good tailgating spot that’s in view of the stadium and strategically positioned next to a port-a-potty.  He has repeatedly threatened to leave laggards behind if they’re not up, dressed and ready to go by his predetermined departure time.
  • Second, food and beverages.The tailgate is a lengthy affair, so several courses are in order. There are snacks upon arrival (an assortment of chips, dips, veggies, deviled eggs, etc., along with beverages – both of the adult kind and the thirst-assuaging kind). Then, there is the main course. This can range from hot dogs and hamburgers to chicken salad to pimiento cheese sandwiches to good, old-fashioned Southern barbecue. And, of course, there’s dessert. Cake, brownies, etc., are usually best because they’re easily portable.
  • Third, the setting. A good tailgate requires the proper accoutrements. This means erecting a tent to protect yourself from the pre-game heat or rain; a table to hold your food and drinks; comfortable seating; and serving dishes,cutlery, plates and storage containers emblazoned with the mascot of your chosen team.
  • Fourth, the entertainment. This can range from Frisbees to horseshoe sets to the popular “cornhole” game (Jill and I are terrible at cornhole, but I’ve included a photo reference for those who’ve never tried it). A portable television or a radio is also crucial, so you can tune in to the game-day chatter on ESPN or local stations.

Do you have any tailgating traditions, warnings or experiences to share? If so, please do so in the comments section. And I’d like to thank everyone for their comments on my first blog posting, published yesterday. Remember: I’m a Gamecocks fan, through and through, but this blog is open to all.

I’ll be posting daily this week as the Gamecocks’ first undefeated season draws near.


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